“What has God done for you?”
My first response is to state that I have NOT done enough for Him.
As my best effort requires, I will attempt to explain my response…
My family is from an old Roman town on the southwest coast of England facing Wales--across the bay.Life was peaceful for our family--Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles.On our mother’s side were well respected business owners.In our father’s family was a retired naval Officer, with brothers and sisters throughout the Empire. Our grandparents and our parent’s friends are all Episcopalian. I was baptized at Christ Church, Weston-Super-Mare when I was one month old. We all attended regularly; by age five, I taught my baby sister how to pray.
In 1939 war was declared. Life went on as before in southwest England. We celebrated marriages, Christmas with family-- including Santa at my Grandparent’s door--midnight mass…It was a centuries old routine for Westonians.
By 1940, war reared its ugly head when our west coast was bombed. Two uncles were commissioned spitfire pilots; our father went to train for the R.A.M.C--medical people were at a premium, yet no uniforms or paychecks were made available to them. It was very hard on our mother. Children lived and played, ever oblivious. I attended a private Anglican school where we had daily prayers, arithmetic, and French-- as well as a good dose of discipline. God was in our everyday lives as we sang the old hymns, and prayed for victory.
In late 1940, our father was selected for a two year assignment at a military hospital in Scotland. The wounded were flown
in—mostly, burned airmen saved from the North Sea. When I was five, my father insisted I go to the hospital and read poetry or prayers to the burned patients.Strangely, I felt no fear, and was confident as I stood on an orange box to read. That was God’s gift to me! Food became scarce, so dad brought our meals from the mess hall; we lived--all four--in one room.
We attended Presbyterian services. At age six, I became friends with the minister’s daughter who was twice my age. Life went on this way for two more years, while I enjoyed the mischief of any young child with the good fortune of God on my side. By November of 1942, I spoke with a Scottish “brogue”, read Robert Burns’ poetry, and returned home.
England was waiting.However, father had to go to a field hospital in “parts unknown”. In those dark days of war, children were not privy to adult matters. For half of 1943, we stayed at an aunt’s home in the Midlands. Women had to find jobs. Our mother went to her brother’s home in London--on to a clerical job at the admiralty. We children entered boarding school close to our grandparents’ home and I became stronger for my sister, who was now four and a half.I protected her from the anger of the Irish spinster teachers who called her a naughty girl.We prayed each evening as we had at home
In this way we lived by a routine and then a miracle happened.Victory was declared in Europe followed by Victory in Japan. We hoped that we would be reunited with our parents.This event came much later as housing in London was a true shambles.We
also learned that our beloved father had been killed in North Africa.Our faith in God could have been tested. It was more our realization that man’s inhumanity had taken his and many more innocent lives on both sides of the conflicts.We continued to attend church services and remained at boarding school until 1949.
At fifteen and now in London I became even more determined to help my mother. With a letter from my school principal, I went to the local Town Hall and demanded an apartment for us.Our parents’ home had been sold in 1939 when war was declared.Housing was at a premium all over the U.K. and her name was ten years down on the housing list.My type-A personality surged at the Housing Office. I was vehement, and with my principal’s letter in hand, a huge chip on my shoulder, I did a one-person sit-in.
By God’s manifold grace, which was the theme of our daily school prayer, things worked out.By paying “key” money, we had a lovely flat in a great neighborhood of northwest London within weeks.
The many blessings which have been bestowed on me continue today. As I fast forward to 2012, I try to let Jesus know how much I appreciate his sacrifice during the forty days and forty nights.In recent months I have fed three homeless people on a daily basis – a rather minor contribution considering the economic downturn which is not dissimilar to the difficulties we encountered in Great Britain many years ago.Gracious God and family of Grace, I thank you for reading my reflection and for having made me feel so welcome in 2006.I hope to be in your midst for many years of worship.
By Ann Harjo